When last we saw Dr. Gregory House (the brilliant Hugh Laurie, criminally robbed of an Emmy yet again), he seemed to have hit rock bottom. Plagued by hallucinations (the dead Amber Volakis) and haunted by the inexplicable suicide of his fellow Lawrence Kutner, House fell ever-deeper into the abyss. In the season five finale, House is abruptly snapped from his happy delusion of being Vicodin-free and in a relationship with Cuddy.
Believing his symptoms are caused by long-term Vicodin abuse, House admits himself to Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital. The final scene of season five finds House hesitantly going through the doors of Mayfield, leaving fans to wonder just what we (and House) would find on the other side of summer.
What we have is "Broken," a two-hour premiere that pulls House (and us) from his familiar surroundings and people and thrusts him into an environment completely antithetical to what we know of the character. It's a complete departure for the series, dispensing with the usual medical mystery, and most of the main series cast. "Broken" confirms the series is far from "broken," with tight writing, sensitive direction, and wonderful, fully realized performances all round.
I had the chance to interview House, M.D. executive producer/writers Garret Lerner and Russel Friend for their thoughts on "Broken" and the season ahead. The duo wrote the season premiere along with series creator and showrunner David Shore and David Foster.
Friend and Lerner have been writing House since season two and have penned some of the series' finest episodes, including the stunning season four two-part finale "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart," and season five's "Locked In." But writing the premiere, and coming at it from such a foreign position "was scary and risky to do," the duo told me. "We left the comfort zone in a way we never have before."
The writers explained "with the character of House already at such a low point, it would have been difficult to start from there and have the same show." Instead, executive producer (and episode director) Katie Jacobs decided to take the risk of doing a two-hour episode and "follow House through that experience."
"We talked a lot about whether we were going to cut back to the hospital and see what's going on with everyone there, what the team is doing in House's absence, what's going on with Wilson and Cuddy. We ultimately decided to simply be true to House's experience. It would be more powerful to just stay with him," they said. Of the regular cast, only Wilson appears, and then only for a brief scene.